Cruelty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Many years ago, I wrote a lengthy post on social media with this title and if was in specific reference to pictures spreading on social media that were in fact lies – sort of.

The pictures WERE of cruelty. Dogs were seized, rehabbed and re-homed, and the people who “owned” the dogs were tried and convicted of animal cruelty under Canadian law. However, the pictures circulating were accusing someone new of performing the cruelty which was false.

The pictures had popped up (for this second time) on social media and I recognized them immediately. I knew they were from a previous seizure that had occurred about a year or so before and I knew that this NEW person was not related at all to that terrible situation. This new person was now being slandered, verbally attacked and threatened in social media and even had a drive by shooting! So what the heck was going on here?

The “newly accused” actually had animals stolen from her from an Animal Control officer. Yes, you read that correctly! Stolen from her by an Animal Control Officer!

In attempt to sway the public because this Animal Control Officer was now under investigation by the Police for theft, the Animal Control officer shared the pictures from a PREVIOUS animal seizure claiming she personally rescued these new animals from what she referred to as “a modern day Auschwitz”.

I said I recognized the photos, actually it was two out of about 20 that were shared that I recognized. They were horrendous cases of abuse and something I’ll never forget. When I saw those pictures in particular, plus read the Animal Control Officers story on social media, I became very doubtful of the accuracy of it and chose to not jump on the band wagon and actually go myself an view the situation. As a side note, the comparison by a “professional” of an animal cruelty case to Auschwitz not only offended me but made my blood boil and actually was what commanded my attention to the whole situation.

I headed out that day with a dear friend and investigated the situation. It was easy enough to find as their address in the country was listed publicly on Facebook. It was an elderly woman living on a farm with I think four or five dogs, multiple horses, some pigs and even a llama. My friend and I looked around and where there was poopsy outside in the yard and in the barn, the place looked a little run down but all animals had shelter, bedding, ample food, water and were obviously cared for. The horses hooves were even trimmed nicely. I remember saying to my friend that for an elderly woman, she’s doing a remarkable job caring for all the animals as I had enough problems keeping care of four dogs!

So again, what the heck was going on here?

The elderly woman claimed that she had a horse go down in the early evening and she called the Animal Control Officer for help. The Animal Control Officer came out, euthanized the horse but also said she was coming back with a trailer. When The Animal Control Officer came back, she then started taking the animals she wanted. When the elderly woman objected, the Animal Control Officer said she’d be charged and prosecuted for Animal Abuse. The Animal Control Officer filled her trailer and told the woman she was coming back. That was when the elderly woman contacted family and the Police.

Over the course of the following year, that Animal Control officer was tried AND convicted of theft of property (animals are “property” in Canada). Sadly, her punishment was only approximately a $700 fine and loss of job. The “newly accused” never got her animals back as they disappeared.

As of recent, I’ve found myself digging through my archives in desperation of finding my original story but have had no success. So here I am, writing it again. Why?

Recently, my two canine series dog books have come under fire for containing dog pictures that contain “mutilated dogs” or “dogs clearly in need of medical attention and not receiving it”. The people making these comments therefore conclude that because the pictures are in my books, I must be in support of mutilating dogs or denying them medical treatment.

Let’s go back to the original statement as we’ve become to know it. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is a statement that we’ve all likely heard and has a literally meaning that the perception of beauty is subjective. What one person finds beautiful, another may not.

So why have I altered this statement to reflect cruelty?

Oddly enough, I feel, it too has the same literal meaning. I believe cruelty is subjective (to a certain extent) and when viewing a picture, we will have an immediate emotional response. That response may be positive or negative but it will be our “judgment” on that split second in time when the picture was captured. Is our quick judgement accurate to the actual real life scenario?

One might be thinking “how on earth can you look at a picture and say it’s NOT cruel?!?” Let me explain.

I’m a dog lover. I’m 49 years old now and throughout my life, have had multiple dogs. I’ve had pure bred registered dogs, crosses, rescues and I’ve covered full lifespans of dogs from puppies at 8 weeks of age up to and including their passing as an elderly dog. I’ve also had many dogs go “through my hands” as a rescue intake and then to forever homes. Don’t ever say I don’t love canines – ALL canines. I will admit, I have preferences but I do love and appreciate all dogs and I think my history proves that hands down.

Social media is an amazing thing! But as I’ve come to see more and more, it can also be a dangerous thing. Pictures are posted in rapid time particularly when it comes to “dog people” as we ADORE our dogs and we EXPECT you will as well!

Like many proud dog owners, my cell phone has well over 1000 pictures on it. Let me break down those photos to you so as you might “get into my head”…

90% are dog photos with the remaining 10% being pictures of humans, fishing and scenery pictures. I will PROUDLY add that the 10% has increased dramatically as we’ve become proud grandparents so I now have an abundance of REALLY cute grand baby pictures (not so much of adults).

I can share with you right now at least 30 different pictures of our dogs in various forms of sleep! Sleeping on the couch, sleeping on the bed, sleeping upside down, sleeping with a toy, sleeping with blankets in various stages of cover… Or…

Are they pictures of dead dogs?

That’s a harsh statement but I think a valid one and one I use to make part of my point. When anyone shares a picture of a dog sleeping soundly with his ever so cute tongue hanging out, is he sleeping or is it a morbid picture of a dead dog? You only know because you know the person sharing the picture. You know the background or the full story. You BELIEVE what the caption tells you.

How do we determine by viewing a picture whether or not it’s “cruelty”?

On social media, there are some OBVIOUS pictures sometimes shared of cruelty. These may contain abused dogs in various stages of neglect and sometimes fresh wounds are visual. Typically, along with that the picture may come a caption that states the abuse. So we know – that picture is abuse if we BELIEVE the captions. Or is it? We’re assuming the attached written blurb is factual and an accurate depiction of the picture.

So what is your immediate “call” if you see a picture of a dog that is gaunt, ribs showing, hips showing, laying on the dead un kept grass with a collar that clearly shows it’s tied to something? If you don’t know the person and there is no caption to go with the picture – is that dog suffering from cruelty?

A few years back, that EXACT picture circulated on social media and many people grabbed their torches and ran to the aid of the dog who they felt CLEARLY was suffering! People replied to the post that Police needed to be called immediately, many literally threatened physical violence if they were given the address, many suggested immediate theft of the dog. This “situation” was actually located very close to me.

As it turns out, the dog was a senior enjoying her last days, laying in the front yard on a warm sunny, early spring day. The dog was well into her teens, and was under pain management due to cancer (hence why she had lost significant weight). The dog was tied to the front door because the people used to go out into the front yard with her on leash so she could watch the people go by and it wasn’t fenced.

After the post to social media, the people had to put a sign up explaining that they didn’t have much time left with her and to please stop harassing them as they were having a difficult time as it was… Sure enough, within a few days, the sign was taken down and the dog was gone but in her place, a cross. It’s obvious, these people did in fact love their dog.

Take a test! What’s your call?

What’s your call: Dog pictured wearing a collar on that has a little box positioned on the collar. Is this a high voltage shock collar or one that submits a beep to warn of the limits of the underground fencing system marking the end of the property? CRUELTY or LOVING DOG PEOPLE?

What’s your call: A mangy little dog, matted fur, thin, toe nails long and seriously looking a mess? Well, that was our Taxi girl. At the time of her last vet visit, she was 17 years old, she was a rescue and HATED any form of grooming. The last few months of her life she had lost control of her bowels so defecated multiple times daily during sleep. She hated brushing so instead I opted to cut out poop that stuck to her fur. Her toe nails were over grown as she got very stressed out to them being trimmed. She was thin as cancer was present. Taking her into the vet on her last day was terribly upsetting for two reason. We were losing our little beloved, feisty Taxi girl. But the second reason was I felt ashamed of how she “looked”, she looked like she was neglected and truthfully, she even stank from urine. I’ll add that we changed her bedding daily and sometimes even multiple times a day. I can tell you, she was loved.

What’s your call: A picture (close up) of three puppies trying to chew their way out of a kennel? These puppies were being taken into the vet via a car ride. The kennel was in the vehicle. CRUELTY or LOVING DOG PEOPLE?

What’s your call: A Doberman (our preferred breed of choice), Boxer, Schnauzer or other breed displayed with cropped ears or a docked tail? CRUELTY or LOVING DOG PEOPLE?

This is a tough one, so bare with me. Cropping and Docking is legal in some countries and not legal in others. In Canada, it is legal in some Provinces but not in other Provinces.

When done legitimately, it is performed by veterinarians as a surgical procedure under anesthetic and TYPICALLY the reputable breeder will take their full litter of puppies into the vets to have the litter done all together. However, you can purchase an uncropped puppy and take it yourself to a vet. CRUELTY or LOVING DOG PEOPLE? Well, I’ll let you decide but if Veterinarians are accepting money to do the procedure then we’re accusing Veterinarians as being cruel are we not? One could say, “yes but they’re starting to change their minds”. The fact remains, many have not.

We can say it’s an unnecessary surgical procedure for sure and I’ll even agree it’s primarily done for cosmetics but it IS performed by a vet. So doesn’t it become a choice? Some people may still say that you risk the life of the puppy by putting it under anesthetic unnecessarily. This is true but we do that all the time. We spay our f